An Open Letter to Dr. X

(source: NPR)

Dear Dr. X,

It’s been many years, nearly 40 years, since I sat in your office with my parents, nervously awaiting my appointment with you.

I was merely a girl of 16, who had been plagued with many mysterious autoimmune related symptoms from the age of 8 onward. In the prior three months, I had gained 20 lbs. somewhat suddenly, and my doctor suspected thyroid issues resulting from my immune dysfunction.

Your manner was abrupt, unfriendly, condescending, none of which a crime of course, though distinctly insensitive and unhelpful. You told my parents I was obese, the result of overeating. Though my mom reported that I had grown afraid to eat for fear of gaining weight, and said that I had eaten only a sandwich for my day’s food, you retorted: “Then she should only eat 1/2 a sandwich!” This response would haunt me for the next 20 years as I developed a fear of eating, and a subsequent eating disorder. But I digress.

You asked my mom to leave the exam room so that you could do an “examination.” I did not understand why I needed to be alone with you and why in the world you would need to do a breast exam. Your voice dripped with disgust as you repeatedly told me, while fondling my breasts, “You’re just a hysterical girl. You’re obese.” I remember staring at the light in the ceiling and losing awareness of what was happening. The next thing I remember was that you were telling my parents I was a hysterical young girl as I had blacked out and my blood pressure had skyrocketed during the exam.

I never told my parents nor anyone what happened, only that I did not like you and would never return to that office again. No one asked why, fortunately for you. We returned to the doctor who had sent us and told him we did not find you to be helpful. Such an extreme understatement, to say the least. It wasn’t until 10 years later, as an adult, that I read my diary from that tumultuous time and then remembered the traumatic visit to your office. By then I was in therapy and my therapist affirmed that it was too late to do anything legal about it. I also believed that if I tried, I would only be further traumatized.

Luckily, through some additional visits to my kind, caring, knowledgable doctor, I was able to get treatment for my condition: Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and I’ve been on medication for this thyroid issue ever since. Not so luckily, I battled many years of starving myself, bingeing then purging, and fearing eating more than a “1/2” of anything before getting help after my children were born. After years of suffering, and then months of therapy, I was able to recognize that I deserved to eat, to be nurtured, and to not blame myself for things that had happened “to me.”

I have seen your name in magazines, quoted as an “expert” in the field of weight loss, and I know that you still practice in a beautiful beachfront city. I pray that you have not victimized other innocent women, and I still wonder if there is anything that I can do at this point to stop you from ever hurting another human being. I wrote to you on New Year’s Day several years back to free myself of the pain and burden of what you did to me. I did not expect a reply, and alas, I did not get one.

So why do I write this now, nearly 40 years after the incident?

Because if some woman is wondering if she should report her abuse, perhaps she will find courage by reading this.

Because some young girl out there is at a doctor’s office, and her mom will know by reading this to never leave her child alone in a similarly vulnerable situation.

Because by joining other brave women in the #metoo movement, I am liberated and freed from the stigma of being an innocent victim who somehow took on the blame.